Today we’d like to introduce you to Paru Herrera-Lim.
Hi Paru, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Hello ~ My name is Frances Leanne Cariño Herrera-Lim (she/they) and my artist name is Paru (short for Paruparo: butterfly in Tagalog).
I struggle with the idea of truly knowing my story.
One’s story feels like a breathing thing.
Pulsing, opening, and transforming as I recall memories I thought I had lost. Shifting as I find forgiveness from past relationships and friendships.
It seems the story continues to change as elements connect in my life.
But this is my best attempt to share a part of the story and I thank Tori Cristi for calling me in, Voyage LA for providing a platform, and you, for offering your presence by reading this piece.
I am a filipinx artist + chef currently based in Tongva land since Fall of 2016.
The idea of home and ancestral memory continue to be central themes in the work I do and the food I make. Being born to parents that worked for Foreign Service gave me the opportunity to learn about different cultures from a young age; I lived in The Philippines for four years, the UK for seven years, and the US for, now, my 14th year (non-consecutive).
I am ethnically part Ibaloi (Indigenous tribe / Igorot umbrella group) on my mother’s side and part Chinese (Hokkien) and Illongo on my father’s side (with Tagalog heritage on both sides). With this blood memory, it has become essential to create food that is rooted in sharing ingredients and stories from the countries I have lived in and the lands my ancestors are from. Claiming the title of chef has become less about my rank in the industry’s kitchen brigade and more about representing my story through culinary arts.
Like many children of diplomats, it was a privilege and friction to move every few years. I was able to craft a wider scope in my cultural mapping of the world and deepen my innerstanding of being born from colonized lineages and spending formative years in two centers of empire (the US and the UK).
Few friendships have survived the continental transitions made. I still get quite anxious when asked where I am from. But, overall, the highs and lows of experiencing drastic changes in curriculum, economy, and lifestyle have molded me to hold more gratitude for the small things that cultivate a sense of belonging and community. Continued research in Filipino, Chinese, Ibaloi, and Japanese cuisine and food geography is an invaluable resource for the releases I have yet to make.
During this past winter in quarantine, I began selling vegan Filipino food from home on the westside of LA while between jobs (I work as a Line cook). My sister/friend and healer, Cyn, also provided generous space for me to do meal pick-ups on the Eastside. Currently, I am planning to host a cozy filipinx pop-up and fulfill custom orders while I learn on the line in two kitchens (Lasita & Esters).
From my travels, it would be my vision to share the interconnected weaving of culture through the ceremony of cooking and artmaking. In 2019, I was honored to be cast in Asian America: The Future is Now, directed by Kyoko Takenaka. In the piece co-created with Kyoko, the whole cast and I made over 100 mini arroz caldo onigiri for each audience member to enjoy during “Itadakimasu”. From 2017 – 2019, I hosted 3 Kamayan pop-ups (eating utensil-free on banana leaves) as ubekabute (a vegan Filipino food start-up). I learned a lot from my collaborations in the past five years in LA and harnessed the lessons to carve a legacy that is founded on honoring my ancestors and seeding intergenerational prosperity.
As “authentic” and traditional cultural products and practitioners gain global attention, the concepts of cultural liminality, indigeneity, and hybrid identity become more commonplace in the constricting winds of identity-markers and a ruptured immigration system. Cooking, zinemaking, songwriting, as well as dancing from a third culture kid lens has bloomed into my favorite set of creative rhythms. These mediums provide a rotation of releases. When I am too tired from working in the kitchen to cook at home, I can always return to drawing fantasy desserts, dancing (as an element or shape), or simply writing my emotions out.
Each person is bestowed different abilities from the blessing of their design and the momentum of their lineage.
It was difficult for me to choose one profession/one passion early on.
I have grown to see my mediums as the harmonious flavors to completing my creative palate.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the fall of 2019, I had a miscarriage from a pregnancy with a past live-in partner. This is impossible to summarize. During and after this experience, I came to realize there were many ways I needed to change the way I was treating myself. I did not expect to feel so tired, so intensely fatigued in the first trimester. I knew it was too difficult for me to continue in the physically demanding role of being a line cook.
Before being pregnant, I didn’t mind the odd burn in the kitchen or bruises from the dance-floor. It was acceptable to me to skip meals to continue work. But with a child on the way, I had to learn to care for myself again – as if I were the baby myself.
During this time, I endured the most physical and emotional stress I had ever experienced in my entire life (even worse than the chaos of settling into LA). I needed to maximize the hours I worked so I could provide for the baby. My parents reside outside of the US. Being raised Catholic made wedding arrangements urgent to my family. There were compounding factors for overwhelm.
I won’t dig into fine details but when I lost the baby, my partner at the time wanted me to be over it in a day. Two women I was in contact with also advised me to move on only weeks after. Everyone processes differently…I found out after researching “spontaneous abortions” that four months of PTSD after a miscarriage is to be expected. In moments, I felt very alone.
I could not break (dance) immediately after this loss (which would be my usual outlet) so I turned to a routine of Qi Gong. Routines helped a lot. There are more struggles that studded the path but this stage of my journey was the most impactful on my concept of a finite life and the infinite ways to perceive death. Perhaps not all movement is for an audience, perhaps the most important meal to make is the one for self, and maybe the home I’m creating can keep evolving to welcome a new being in a different (and more intentional) way.
Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
Along a nomadic path, no matter where someone is from, the comfort of a home-cooked meal and the freeing sensation of artmaking (especially in community) is a shared need.
The intersections of the food industry, the breaking (“breakdancing”) scene, the filipinx/o/a community, and tangential circles continue to shock me.
I believe I am very lucky to belong to various adjoining cultures – there is a natural fortune in the expanse of surprise connections made in this life and beyond.
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paru_frances/
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Paruplanet/about
- SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/paruplanet
- Other: https://dearastralparu.tumblr.com/
Mannie Willis, Jennelle Fong